Seven months ago, I picked the San Antonio Spurs to win the NBA championship. They're now just four wins away from proving me right.
When I made my top-10 bets for the 2013-2014 NBA season, I envisioned a Spurs-Miami Heat NBA Finals. And though I love Miami and LeBron James, the 14-1 odds I got on the Spurs at Paddy Power Sportsbook at the time were just too juicy to pass up, especially because I felt San Antonio outplayed the Heat in last year's finals.
So here we are. Game 1 is Thursday night and I am psyched. Both the Heat and Spurs have looked dominant throughout the postseason; they are truly the two best teams in the NBA and deserve to face off once again for the league title.
And since I've already locked in a profit from my original NBA bets (if the Spurs win, my return on investment will be astronomical), I'm going to let my bankroll ride on this series.
Here are my top-10 bets for the NBA Finals.
10. Series will be tied 2-2 after Game 4 (+138) – bet365 Sportsbook & Racebook
These odds aren't great, but I just can't see any scenario other than these teams being deadlocked after four games. The series begins in San Antonio, where the Spurs went 32-9 in the regular season and 9-1 this postseason. Then it goes back to Miami, where the Heat, also 32-9 in the regular season, have looked unbeatable at 6-0 in the playoffs.
I think the home teams go 7-0 in this series, and so therefore, I like this bet. Speaking of which …
9. Spurs win in 7 (+350) – bet365
This is actually a much better price than the last bet, which is why I've ranked it higher on the list. What’s most interesting about the lines offered is the fact that you can get the Heat to win in seven at +550, but in six at +350.
In a way, that makes some sense. If the Heat are going to win, it’s more likely they do it on their home floor as opposed to a winner-take-all Game 7 in San Antonio. Then again, Miami is the series underdog, so it stands to reason that giving them more games would make them more likely to win the series.
8. Heat reach 20 points in Game 1 first (+105) – bet365
Miami’s best lineup – and best scoring lineup – is its starting five. San Antonio is much more balanced and relies on its second and even third units to score throughout games (see: Boris Diaw dropping 26 to close out the Thunder in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals).
So while I think the Spurs take Game 1, I like the Heat to get off to a quick start.
7. Danny Green outscores Ray Allen in the series (-150) – Paddy Power
Green (9.3 points per game) and Allen (9.1) have scored at basically an equal clip in the postseason so far. But there was a point in last year's finals where Green was the clear favorite to win the series MVP.
Green set the NBA Finals record for 3-pointers last year and was consistently wide open as the Heat crashed down on San Antonio's big men. He cooled off in Games 6 and 7, but I predict he will see similar looks this year. Allen will get his shots off, but the 38-year-old's shooting stroke has faded just a bit this year.
6. Danny Green +93.5 point handicap (+900) – Paddy Power
Paddy Power has set LeBron James as the favorite to score the most points in this series, and the site has assigned every other player a handicap. I think Green's handicap is most favorable – it gives him a little over 13 points per game in breathing room compared to James – and since I think he will be a big factor in this series, I like his odds here.
5. Kawhi Leonard outrebounds LeBron James (-120) – Paddy Power
In the regular season, Leonard averaged 6.2 rebounds per game vs. James's 6.9. But Leonard played just 29.1 minutes per game to Lebron's 37.7.
I predict Leonard's minutes will be amped up in this series, because he is really the only Spurs player who can guard LeBron. Leonard played a whopping 44 minutes in Game 6 against the Thunder on Saturday in order to stop Kevin Durant, and pulled down 11 boards in the process.
4. Dwyane Wade outscores Tim Duncan (-150) – Paddy Power
I love Tim Duncan so much (see my next two bets), but there is no way in hell he outscores Dwyane Wade in this series. Wade has averaged 18.7 points per game in this postseason and San Antonio doesn't have anyone who can guard him. With Leonard likely to give James fits in their one-on-one matchup, it will open up the possibility for Wade to abuse smaller defenders like Danny Green or even the Tony Parker/Patty Mills combo.
3. Tim Duncan points plus rebounds over LeBron James points (-125) – Paddy Power
So far in the playoffs, LeBron James is averaging 27.1 points per game. Duncan is averaging 16.5 points and 8.9 rebounds for a total of 25.4. But the Heat don't have anyone who can guard Duncan in the paint and they are a terrible offensive rebounding squad. Duncan should grab just about every rebound that comes his way, and if he scores at the same clip, I like his odds in this prop.
2. Tim Duncan wins the MVP (+220) – Paddy Power
LeBron James is the best player in this series, and Tony Parker is second best. But if the Spurs are going to win – and I believe they will – it will be because their big men are simply too overwhelming for Miami's small lineups.
Duncan is still bitter about San Antonio's collapse last season in the finals. This might be the last hurrah in the Hall of Famer's career, and I predict he will be an animal in the paint.
1. Spurs win the series (-125) – bet365
Again, I got the Spurs at 14-1 to win the NBA championship before the season start. As I said at the time, "This is such an unbelievable price for a team that was the 2012-2013 NBA champion until a missed free throw, a crazy offensive rebound and an off-balance Ray Allen sent the finals to a Game 7."
I'm still shaking my head that I didn't put any real money on them at the time. The hedging possibilities would be terrific.
Dan Podheiser has covered the gambling industry since 2013, but he has been an avid poker player for more than a decade, starting when he was just 14 years old. When he turned 18, he played online poker regularly on U.S.-friendly sites until Black Friday in April 2011. Follow him on Twitter @danpodheiser.